In a statement, the U.N.-brokered government in Libya denounced France's participation in the conflict in Libya, shortly after the French acknowledged that their special forces were operating in the country.

France on Wednesday confirmed that three of its soldiers had been killed in Libya, the first time the government has acknowledged its presence in the oil-rich country. The French confirmation followed a day after Libyan officials told The Associated Press that Islamic militia had shot down a helicopter near Benghazi, killing two French officers.

The deaths reveal secretive Western military cooperation with the anti-Islamist eastern forces opposed to the U.N.-brokered, Tripoli-based unity government.

Hundreds held a demonstration in Tripoli against France's involvement later Wednesday. They set fire to the French flag and said attacks on French business interests were "legitimate."